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After returning home from every trip, I always realize there are things I would have done differently. In retrospect, during our trip Germany, I would have spent more than one day in Munich. (Seriously, what was I thinking?!) During our two week road trip across Central Europe, we spent one full day and one night in Munich, the tourist capital of Germany.
Where to stay in Munich to maximize your day
When staying in a city for only a short time, I always select our hotel based on location and convenience. That means we are willing to spend a little more to maximize our time. We stayed at Sofitel Munich Bayerpost Hotel which is located directly next to the main train station. This is an ideal place to stay if you only have one day in Munich for sightseeing.
What to see in only one day in Munich
After checking into our hotel room and dropping off our luggage, we were off to see as much of Munich as we could in just one day. From the hotel it is approximate a 15-minute walk to Marienplatz, the main square in Munich. Luckily, there are also several things to do along the route.
With only one day in Munich you obviously will not be able to see all of the tourist sights, or even spend an adequate amount of time appreciating the ones you do visit. But in the short amount of time we were were there, we were able to hit a few of the major highlights.
Our one-day Munich itinerary
- Karlplatz Shopping District
- St Michael’s Cathedral
- St. Peter’s Church
- English Garden
Along the way to Marienplatz, we walked through the bustling pedestrian commercial district of Karlsplatz. Kids ran through a splash fountain and locals and tourists alike gathered and enjoyed an afternoon coffee or meal. There are a lot of little shops and restaurants in this zone, so it’s a great place to people watch, window shop or enjoy a quick lunch. You’ll find everything from Gucci to H&M, to smaller stores selling lederhosen, dirdls, and German souvenirs.
St Michael’s Cathedral
Just a short distance up the pedestrian walkway you’ll find St. Michael’s Cathedral. While the outside is pretty, the inside of the Renaissance-style church is much more impressive. In fact, it’s stunning. Built in the late 1500’s, the church was damaged during World War II, but later restored to it’s original beauty. The church is free to enter and is an easy and quick stop on your way to Munich’s main square.
Marienplatz is Munich’s main square. The new town hall dominates the square and is quite a remarkable piece of architecture. At the center of the town hall is the famous clock tower, or Glockenspiel, which comes to life at 11 a.m., noon, and 5 p.m. each day. Of all of the animated clock towers we’ve seen, the Glockenspiel is my favorite. The life size characters spin and dance for several minutes as crowds by the hundreds gather to watch. To get a great view of the famous square you can climb the clock tower or climb the 299 steps to reach the observation tower of St, Peter’s Church across from the new town hall.
St. Peter’s Church
Visiting and touring St. Peter’s Church is a must, even if you only have one day in Munich. We didn’t get to climb the tower because we were traveling with our 18-month-old daughter. She was too young to climb herself without taking a full day to get up the stairs, and our child carrier backpack was too large to fit through the narrow passageways that often require you to squeeze past other people going the opposite direction on the same staircase. So we skipped the climb. But if you plan to climb the tower, there is a small fee to do so and the views are spectacular.
Even if you don’t want to climb the tower, the church is definitely worth visiting. It is the oldest parish church in Munich, and it is absolutely lovely!
Directly next to St. Peter’s Church and just around the corner from Marienplatz is the Viktualienmarkt. This is a large outdoor food market with a ton of different vendors offering everything from gourmet meals to pretzels and sausages. Visiting local markets is one of my favorite things to do in a new place, and this particular market lived up to the hype. It is a great place to grab an inexpensive and authentic German lunch (or a pretzel bigger than your head). Plus, we loved the energy and atmosphere of the Viktualienmarkt.
Tip for those visiting the Viktualienmarkt: Not all of the vendors at Viktualienmarkt accept credit cards. It is one of the best things to know before visiting Munich. Make sure you have carry euros because many places do not accept credit cards for small purchases. You can always ask if they accept credit cards before you order. Ninety percent of people in Germany speak wonderful English, so you can get by without knowing German. We always recommend learning a few key words or phrases in a country’s native language before a trip.
Munich’s English Garden is comparable to New York City’s Central Park and is home to several great beer gardens. This urban park is particularly a good place to visit in Munich with kids as there is plenty of room for them to run around and play. Plus beer gardens in Munich Germany are family-friendly.
On the way back to the hotel, stop off along Maximilian Strasse or one of the shops or department stores in Karlsplatz and at least try on lederhosen (for men) or a dirndl (for women). These traditional Bavarian outfits are often worn to festivals and special events in Bavaria. If visiting Munich during Oktoberfest, you’ll want to read up on how to dress for Oktoberfest and possibly invest in your own traditional Bavarian outfit. After trying them on we later purchased a lederhosen and dirndl that will always remind us of our trip. We now host Oktoberfest parties every year for an excuse to wear them! Hopefully someday we will actually make it back to Munich for the real festival.
Other things to see if you have more than one day in Munich
Munich is the tourism capital of Germany. There is so much to do that we could have spent an entire week or more. I guess this gives us an excuse to go back. But if you have a bit more than just one day in Munich, here are a few more things to see and experience.
The palace is a huge complex that could take a day to explore. The wonderful Royal Gardens at the palace would be another great place to visit with kids. An audio tour of the palace walks you through the history of Bavarian rulers and the palace itself, while the gardens give kids an opportunity to burn some energy and run around.
If you like history and want to know more about Bavarian rulers of old, the Munich Residenz would be the place to visit. It is the former royal palace of Bavarian monarchs.
As you can probably tell, I love pretty churches. Asam Church is probably one of Munich’s most ornate churches. It’s small, so a visit to the church wouldn’t take much time and is only a short walk from the Marienplatz. You could definitely fit this into your itinerary for half day in Munich.
This is actually located just outside of Munich but would be worth a visit. The abbey runs a brewery, which is an unusual concept in America. But in Germany it isn’t uncommon for monks to brew beer. From what I’m told the beer is really good too. How cool would it be to drink beer brewed by monks?
Neuschwanstein Castle is perhaps one of the world’s most famous castles. The castle was the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle which is pictured on the Disney logo. Visiting Neaschwanstein Castle can easily be done as a day trip from Munich. It will take about 2 hours each way to get to Neuschwanstein Castle, but it will be well worth the trip!
Have you visited Munich, Germany? Leave us a comment and let us know your favorite attractions in the Bavarian city.